In 1951 the body of an unknown white man is found in the Mississippi river along the Mississippi Delta. Two black men discover it while fishing. A young boy, Jake Conner, visits his country cousins in the small Delta town of Cotton City and begins parallel journeys discovering the dead man’s identity and fate. Along the journey Jake befriends a stalwart black man recently back from the Korean War, who teaches him that Confederates were gray because they were merged in the black and white of Mississippi.
He learns of dark forces of the past, and with the camaraderie of his family, the acquaintance of a simple-minded sharecropper, and the eccentricities of a strange woman from the past, also gets a look into the future of the agrarian land of Mississippi.
Although the focal point in MISSISSIPPI COTTON is the Mississippi Delta, the story is more broadly a Southern story, which is to say an agrarian story. From the beginning, the North and South have been different worlds: The South the agrarian society, the North the navigation society. Nothing wrong with being either, but that s the way it has been. So when I write about Mississippi, specifically, I write about the South generally and an agrarian society generally.
"First time novelist, Paul H. Yarbrough, masterfully transports readers deep into the world of Mississippi Cotton, where life is not as simple as it seems." ~Julie Cantrell, editor, Southern Literary Review and bestselling author of Into the Free
"In Mississippi Cotton a 20th Century Huck Finn has a real adventure. No matter that his raft is a Trailways Bus along the river, the trip is no less toward maturity. If you like a good story, this is your book, a book told by someone who knows the terrain--its history, people, landscape and culture. Only a proper native could have his narrator say that his daddy taught him never to hold onto anything with Lincoln's face longer than you had to." ~Dr. James Everett Kibler, author, Walking Toward Home, Memories Keep, and Our Father's Fields
"Set in 1951, in the fictional Delta town of Cotton City, the story is more broadly a Southern story...an agrarian story. It is also a murder mystery. The body of an unknown man is found in the river at the Greenville Bridge. Jake's bus ride visit to his Delta cousins begins a parallel journey that ends in the discovery of the dead mans identity." ~Noel Workman, Delta Magazine
"Paul H. Yarbrough has totally captured the South. Seeing life through the eyes of a young boy was perfect. The writer's genius and wonderful wit came through to my heart.
"So many laugh out loud, dead on, observations! This is a "required reading" for my children and grandchildren , so they will understand that wherever I live.....I still call it "going home" when I return to Mississippi. Yarbrough beautifully told a story of the South as it was in the 50's." ~Catherine
"Reading this story of young Jake and his friends and the mystifying world of the adults was almost like tearing pages out of my own past and weaving a darn good story around them. I hope that Paul Yarbrough will continue to write books such as this one. This is a 10-star book and one heck of an excellent first novel. I'll be looking for his future works. Mr. Paul Yarbrough, you done yourself good. Keep writing. Everyone else, if you want a good clean story about what growing up was like in much of America for most boys in the 1950's then this is the book you'll want to read." ~Thriller Junkie
From the Author:
Southern stories, Southern writers, Southern writing, are indeed a study: From the fiction of Joel Chandler Harris to Margaret Mitchell and Caroline Gordon to Tom Wolfe, John Grisham and James Kibler. From the essays of the Vanderbilt Agrarians to Clyde Wilson (THE authority on John C. Calhoun), the richness of Southern literature has been a devotion of my lifelong education. To love Magnolias and Roses is not to love flowers, it is to love beauty. And like these two, Southern Literature sometimes is pure and white, and sometimes dark red with thorns. But in my world, all, and both are striking, and didactic, and beautiful.
I once told a friend that there were three books every Southerner should have in his library: Gone with the Wind, I'll Take My Stand, and the Bible. I did comment: "Not necessarily in that order." It isn't the case that all Southern prose, from Virginia to Texas, is captured by these. But they do reach into the Southern soul for a view of life, past present and future. And that is what I want to write and read about: the South and its life: past, present and future. The South is more than worthy of study.
~Paul H. Yarbrough
A Mississippi Whisper
It’s 1953, and in Jackson, Mississippi, Charlie McCoy has finally reached the “double digits” and turned ten. For Charlie, being ten means being broke (unless he can jump start his junk sales business), school days that feel endless, and the occasional baseball game.
But change is afoot. His older brother, Henry, is in junior high and beginning to pull away. His sister, Katy Jean, remains a whisper of a girl, and now Charlie is outpacing her, growing up as she seems to shrink. Even Jackson is changing, moving away from its agrarian roots, getting a big new highway.
When a fire at the empty estate up the road unearths a skeleton, Charlie and his friends gravitate toward the mystery, eager for distraction and drama. But the mystery swirling around the fire and its surprising discovery only underscore the life lessons Charlie is learning, about the importance of friendship and loyalty.
A MISSISSIPPI WHISPER is a vivid portrait of a time. Told with gentle humor, it’s the story of a young boy beginning to face the realities of life and of a community on the cusp of reinvention.
Paul H. Yarbrough is originally from Jackson, Mississippi. For the past forty years, he has lived in Houston, Texas, where he has worked for two oil companies and been an independent consultant in the oil business, mostly as a landman. He is a widower with one grown son who lives in Log Cabin, Louisiana. Paul has published a handful of short stories, flash fiction and essays in a variety of forums. His first novel, Mississippi Cotton, was published by Wido Publishing in 2011. His second novel, A Mississippi Whisper, came out from WiDo in December 2014.
Paul Yarbrough's delightful, critically-acclaimed debut novel,
MISSISSIPPI COTTON, of rural Mississippi in the 1950's has
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